With the proliferation of digital, I.e. the reality we all now live in, everyone has digital assets. With Grandma on Facebook, Mom on Instagram, and your midlevel manager posting selfies on Snapchat, I think it is safe to say that these accounts, platforms, and digital assets are more than just a fad. Chances are you found this article while browsing through your Facebook news feed. However, what happens to your accounts when you become disabled or pass away?
Let’s Embrace The Present
First, almost everyone has digital assets. The best example would be an author or creative with Intellectual Property left on their personal computer. Unless they have left their password and specific instructions on what to do with that property it may be lost. Thats assuming everything isn’t encrypted, which makes the task even more difficult.
However, even if there is no great IP on the computer, there are probably pictures and memories, and Mom and Grandma from above have their social media accounts.
I am sure some of you have experienced the unsettling Facebook message reminding you of a passed friend or family members birthday. While sometimes these pages are left up as a tribute, in a lot of cases, the deceased’s family or estate administrators simply cannot gain access to the accounts to properly shut them down due to privacy and private data laws.
While Google and Facebook are establishing features to suspend or shutdown long inactive accounts, you can take proactive steps to give your Estate full control to do with your accounts as you see fit.
Just take a moment to think about all the other accounts you may have that will be left floating out there on the world wide web. From Pintrest to Linkedin, Ebay to that old MySpace profile you haven’t opened in 5 years, there is a lot of information out there that should be disposed of properly.
The Easy Fix
First, make a list of your “Digital Assets” along with all your passwords and instructions on what to do with these in the event of your passing. Next, you will need to amend your will to include these assets and instructions.
While you can do this on your own, it is always recommended that you talk to an experienced Trust and Estate Lawyer in your local community. If you have any Intellectual Property, you should transfer that to your trust. If you do not have a trust, go do that immediately! The small upfront price of a trust now will save your estate tens of thousands of dollars and months of time spent in Probate court.
Tell your Trusts and Estate Attorney that you have digital assets you would like to include in your trust and instructions for their disposition for your will.
Take the steps now to compile your accounts, passwords, and any other digital assets you may have. Not only will you experience relief for taking care of your estate, your loved ones will stop receiving unsettling Facebook messages from beyond the grave (unless you want them to)!
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Disclaimer: This blog discusses general legal issues, but it does not constitute legal advice in any respect. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Reading or relying on any such information found within this blog in no way, shape, or form creates or constitutes an Attorney-Client Relationship. The author and his firm expressly disclaim all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this letter.
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